Digest>Archives> March 2002

Keepers Korner

Tid-bits from the Tower

By By Timothy Harrison

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Point Fermin undergoes restoration

California’s Point Fermin Lighthouse is getting a $2.6 million dollar facelift. The lighthouse, which had not been open to the public in the past, will be once restoration is complete. The lighthouse will undergo structural renovations, plumbing and electrical overhaul, hazardous waste removal, fire and burglar alarm systems and air conditioning. The lighthouse will also be furnished in period furnishings. Back in the 1970’s the government was going to tear down the structure and replace it with a radar station. Locals, Bill Olesen, now 97, and John Olguin, now 81, led the effort then to save the lighthouse. The lighthouse when restored will include a gift shop, which will be run by volunteers.

Kenosha Light to change?

The Southport Lighthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin may be returned to its 1907 appearance and turned into an upgraded museum. This all depends on a joint plan between the City of Kenosha and Kenosha County Historical Society.

Lighthouse Monopoly

It seems our ongoing effort to convince the powers that be to produce a Lighthouse Monopoly game are still continuing. If you would like to see USAopoly make a Lighthouse version of MONOPOLY please email Betsy Meagher at Bmeagher@USAopoly.com. When writing to her explain to her why you would like to see them produce a Lighthouse Monopoly game, and also explain why you think that it would sell. We need your help on this one; after all, we would all love to have a Lighthouse Monopoly game!

Ontonagon transfer ready

The Army Corp of Engineers has announced that no environmental impact will result in new owners for Michigan’s Ontonagon Lighthouse, which clears the way for the property to be transferred to the Ontonagon County Historical Society. The 1866 lighthouse was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1963 and closed in 1964.

St. Augustine declared excess

Florida’s St. Augustine Lighthouse is among many lighthouses being declared excess property under the National Lighthouse Preservation Act. However, little is expected to change at the lighthouse, except ownership.

Point Reyes to get money

Improvements to California’s Point Reyes Lighthouse are expected to take place this year. Repairs to the lighthouse, located on the grounds of Point Reyes National Seashore, which had 2.5 million visitors last year, will include repair of the 400-plus stairs leading to the 131 year old lighthouse and an upgrade of the lighting along the path, as well as repainting and general repairs to the tower.

Plans for replica underway

Plans to build a replica of North Carolina’s Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse are well underway. A committee has been formed to raise the money since very little, if any, taxpayer money will be used. The town is airing announcements on local TV showing a picture of the former lighthouse and appealing for donations to build the replica.

Watch the lighthouse tilt

The State of New Jersey is planning on installing some type of device at Barnegat Lighthouse to detect any movement in the tower. The Army Corp of Engineers says the lighthouse is now tilting 22 inches. The tilt is not considered dangerous at this time, but the state wants to monitor the structure to see if it continues on its course of tilting or the movement is stopped.

Plum Beach to finally be saved

Rhode Island’s Plum Beach Lighthouse, out of service since 1941 may finally be on its way to being saved thanks to the tireless efforts of the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse. The dilapidated rusted out structure, located in the water just north of the Jamestown-Verazzano Bridge, will likely be getting $500,000 toward the $1 million needed for restoration under a plan now approved by the town council.

Lighthouse Artist Dies

Pat Norton, an acclaimed Michigan artist known for her lighthouse and ship paintings has died at the age of 70. She was born at a lighthouse on the St. Mary’s River where her father was a lighthouse keeper. Her original paintings sold for as much as $8000.

St. Augustine needs Coast Guard oral history

The St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida is trying to gather oral history and photographs of Coast Guard personnel who were stationed at the lighthouse during World War II. If you have anything that you can share with them contact Annamarie Van Hemmen at the lighthouse at 904-829-0745 (ext) 218 or email her at stauglh@aug.com.

Shore Village Museum to move.

City councilors for the city of Rockland, Maine, have voted to sell the building that currently houses the Shore Village Lighthouse Museum. Under the plan the museum will be required to vacate the building in a certain time period. Apparently the city’s thoughts are that this would force them to find more a more visible site, preferably on the waterfront for the museum. However, it appears that the city’s biggest motive was to put the property back on the tax roles. Proceeds of the sale of the building will be split up with half going to the city’s general fund and the other half split up equally between the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) and the Shore Village Museum. However, if the museum should move out of town, it would receive no proceeds from the sale of the building. City officials claim that last year the museum operated $20,000 in the red. City Councilor Brian Harden claimed that if the city were to hire a full time, year-round director, it would cost the taxpayers $100,000 a year. Currently Ken Black, the museums founder works as a non-paid volunteer director and curator. What Harden does not apparently realize is the tourist draw to the city the museum is, a position that can only increase and benefit the city. Plus he made no mention of the sales of items from the museums gift shop, which offset the cost to operate the museum. Quite frankly, it’s time the city of Rockland, Maine did something to help the museum, which could easily be a huge tourist draw to the city. And tourism translates into dollars. The museum houses the largest and finest collections of U.S. lighthouse artifacts in the country. If the city of Rockland plays its cards right the museum could be turned into one of Maine’s biggest tourist attractions, something that would primarily benefit the people of Rockland and all of mid-coast Maine. The museum will survive and do well wherever it moves to, however if it moves from Rockland, only the city of Rockland would suffer.

Need info on Virginia Light

We are looking for historical information on the Killock Shoal Lighthouse, Chincoteague, Virginia. We are looking for photographs of keepers, recorded memories and just about anything else that could be used for a story about the lighthouse. It was built in 1886 and demolished in 1939. If any of our readers can help, please let’s hear from you.

Sea Girt gets lens

New Jersey’s Sea Girt Lighthouse again has a Fresnel lens, something the lighthouse hasn’t had since World War II. Unfortunately they had to spend $20,000 to buy it and it came all the way from Australia. The committee purchased the lens from an Australian Antiques dealer. The 40-inch high lens came from the Crowdy Head Lighthouse in Australia where it was used from 1920 to 1970. The lens will be put on display in the interior of the lighthouse and the group still is looking for a Fresnel lens to put back into its tower.

Point Betsie gets new lease

Michigan’s photogenic Point Betsie Lighthouse has been leased to Benzie County government. The 15 year lease puts the county officials in a better position to restore and maintain the lighthouse. Up until now they only had caretaker status.

Lightship crew photos needed

Ken Black and Tim Harrison are working on a publication about U.S. Lightships. They are looking for photographs of crewmembers that served on board lightships to be included in the publication as well as photos and memories of life on board a lightship. If you have any to share you can send them to, Tim Harrison, P.O. Box 1690, Wells, Maine 04090.

Mystery Plaque

Just coming into our possession is a heavy brass plaque that reads “Spanish Coat of Arms from Light-House on the Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico destroyed by the American Fleet, May 12, 1888. Presented by Ensign Walter R. Gherardi, August 1889. The problem is there was no Spanish Coat of Arms with the brass plaque when it was found. Navy personnel records indicate that there was a Walter R. Gherardi who entered the Navy in 1891 and became an ensign in 1897 and a lieutenant in 1900. That’s about all we know about him. Plus we know nothing about the lighthouse. If anyone can add some information to this brass plaque, we’d appreciate hearing from you. Perhaps some of our readers who are also Spanish American War buffs can help us out. Let’s hear from you.

Keepers’ Names and Service Dates

The Lighthouse Explorer Database of searchable lighthouse information on the Lighthouse Digest website (www.lhdigest.com) now contains about 2,500 lighthouses. When possible, we’ve included lists of keepers for the lighthouses. Anyone who’s done research on this subject knows how painstaking and time consuming it is to compile this information. We welcome submissions of keeper lists (names and dates of service) from anywhere in the world. The more of this information we can add to the database, the more valuable it will be for research. Send to Jeremy D’Entremont, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 1690, Wells, Maine 04090.

Passing

Marie O’Niell Carr, 101, has passed away in Providence, Rhode Island. As the wife of Earl E. Carr, a lighthouse keeper, she spent 20 years living at at Little Gull Light in Long Island Sound and Southeast Light on Block Island, Rhode Island.

Pigeon Point closed

The lighthouse and grounds are currently closed to the public at California’s Pigeon Point Lighthouse. A section of the exterior of the lighthouse fell off. The lighthouse can still be viewed from the parking lot. For updates call the park hotline at 650-879-2120.

Keeper’s daughter dies

Mrs. Beulah Inez Vanderhoop-Lee passed away in Pittsburgh, PA. She was the third of six children born to lighthouse keeper Charles W. Vanderhoop Sr. and Ethel Manning Vanderhoop. She was the only girl ever born at Gay Head Lighthouse on Marthas Vineyard Lighthouse in Massachusetts. Born June 21, 1920 she enjoyed, as a young girl, assisting her father with his lightkeeping duties. Her father was the only Wampaneag Indian to be a full Head Lighthouse Keeper. Her most memorable memories were when the light failed. At her father’s direction, she would turn the light with a touch of her small hand, despite its great weight of one ton.

History Channel’s lighthouse program

A History Channel special presentation titled, “Saving History - Lighthouses” will air on national television at 8pm EST this coming April 19th. Be sure to mark your calendars now so you don’t miss this historic program.

Lightship Coin and Patch

The Lightship Sailors Association is selling lighthouse coins and patches to raise money to complete the Lightship Sailors Memorial in New Bedford, MA. For a coin, send $15.00 plus $1.00 postage, and for the patch send $10.00 plus $1.00 postage to Dennis M. Cosmo, Jr., 50 Belvedere Street, Johnston, RI 02919. Hurry, the coins are almost sold out.

This story appeared in the March 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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